| Short Colorado Trip
I arrived in Colorado on Thursday 1/5 (I am from Massachusetts) with hopes to have some fun in the mountains.
To check how I'd do with the altitude I ran up Chief Mountain just outside of Denver, I did that right after landing. I felt great. Spent the evening visiting a friend at her work and then checking into hotel in LoDo, a REI trip was a must, and oh yeah, attended the 14ers gathering too. Fun time.
On Friday, I was planning to climb Bierstadt but that didn't happen for two reasons. First, those beers at the gathering the night before made me stay out pretty much most of the night (after everyone left I met some non-climbers and closed the place down) and second, the rental company messed up on the car rental. I needed a 4WD vehicle, so at 8am on Friday, I exchanged the SUV and headed up Chief Mountain again. I didn't feel any signs of AMS (or hangover), a good indication that I'd be all set at higher altitude.
On Saturday the mountain fun begun by meeting 2 climbing friends in Frisco. One of the climbers is a 14ers member (scramble), we hiked in New England when she was home for the holidays, including a brutal winter summit of Mt. Washington on Dec 23rd (not a tall mountain but the weather can...and it did...suck big eggs).
Mt. Washington summit at its' finest with scramble.
The other climber was Raquel, whom I met on Ranier's Kautz route this past summer. We are climbing Denali this year. This trip kicked off our training.
Raquel (orange backpack) on the bottom of Kautz headwall.
After meeting in Frisco, we drove to Missouri Gulch trailhead, the road was snow packed but we didn't have any trouble getting to and parking at the summer trailhead. While I was getting some gear ready and packing, Raquel and Scramble enjoyed some jig dancing to warm up their feet.
Once leaving the TH, we made good time up the switchbacks. I didn't take any pics of the switchbacks, they were forever imbedded in my brain, it was my third time on them (summited Belford before, and also did Missouri).
It took us about 2 hours to reach 11,750 feet, a bit past where the trail splits to Belford and Elkhead Pass. The weather was cloudy, windy, and pretty cold. Selected a camp site, dug in, and stayed in the tent for the next 14 hours. We slept, ate, slept, slept some more...I thought we were going to have an alpine start, but we woke up super late. Ended up getting back on the trail by 8:45am.
The camp. Love my Ev-3 tent.
The weather was not bad, just a bit cold. Blue skies and almost no wind, but since we were climbing the west side, the sun didn't hit us until we were pretty much on the Belford ridge. The views were spectacular.
Raquel and scramble.
Raquel and Scramble enjoying the cold.
There was another party climbing Belford, we were grateful as they broke a good amount of the trail. Although there was not a lot of snow, some route finding was needed as snow drifts and hard packed snow covered parts of the summer trail. Towards the top, we returned the favor and did some trail breaking too.
At one point, the route turned vertical, Scamble knew exactly what to do...LOL.
Vertical? No Problem.
Once we gained the summit "ridge", the walk to the rocky summit was a cake. The views were breathtaking, the snow on Missouri and the entire range looked awesome. In the distance, you could see ski tracks running down the slope, someone had a blast the day or two before.
Belford summit shot.
Forest and his climbing partner on the summit.
We reached the summit at about 1pm. Had some food, and talked about descending. Option 1 was the standard route, and option 2 to was to pass below the summit towards Pecks Peak and take the gully down to the trail head. The second route sounded more fun and was a bit less steep.
The descent was interesting, the talus covered Pecks side wasn't too bad, some sliding, but the snow provided ok traction. Saw a herd of big horn sheep, they were in our path, but slowly moved north to give us way. They gully was a bit slick in places, microspikes helped, but crampons would have been better. At one point I set up a running belay, which made the descent much safer and quicker. It pays off to carry some rope, biners, and slings. By the time we got to the bottom of the gully, it was already dark, we post holed until we found the trail, and then packed up our camp, and ran down the mountain. I think it took us about an hour to get back to the trail head.
No pictures of the gully, sadly, didn't feel like getting my hands out of my gloves and then fiddling with my tablet.
Once back at the TH, gear thrown in the car, we were off to Frisco to drop Scramble off. I was heading with Raquel to Vail area to do some cross country skiing the next day. Beaver Creek was awesome, I never cross country skied at that elevation before. Had tones of fun.
On Tuesday, Raquel and I went up Quandary peak. It was a quick ascent and descent. Felt really good. The weather was spectacular.
My axe is sooo big. Quandary summit.
View from Quandary.
Tuesday night was back to Denver, 6am flight back home on Wed morning.
Turned out to be another great Colorado trip. 2 14er calendar winter summits, twice up Chief Mountain, and drained Denver's beer supply a bit :-P
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):